Bankruptcy. Declaring bankruptcy has serious consequences, including lowering your credit score, but credit counselors and other experts say that in some cases, it may make the most sense. Filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 allows people with a steady income to keep property, like a mortgaged house or a car, that they might otherwise lose through the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. In Chapter 13, the court approves a repayment plan that allows you to pay off your debts over a three to five year period, without surrendering any property. After you have made all the payments under the plan, your debts are discharged. As part of the Chapter 13 process, you will have to pay a lawyer, and you must get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for any bankruptcy relief.
Most debt management plans have participants send a monthly payment to the credit counseling agency. The agency then distributes it to creditors. They also negotiate lower interest rates, and may be able to have fees waived and can help reduce or eliminate the number of collection calls a person receives. Keep in mind, most plans take 36 to 60 months to complete. Credit counseling agencies may also help consumers review credit reports and dispute errors.
Credit counseling works because it provides people with the time and tools to focus on their financial situation. The nonprofit version of this service provides a holistic, high-level view of an individual or family’s debts, assets, income and expenses before recommending a debt relief strategy. These services work because the solutions provided are personalized and specific, and because counselors are well-trained and non-biased.
This only happens in the first month of the program. After that, your payments are made on time according to the new schedule. As a result, most people see their scores improve because they have low credit scores starting out. That one month of “missed” payments is usually a drop in the bucket compared to all the other payments that might have been late or missed while you were struggling.
If you’re struggling with finding the best way to get out of debt, my advice is this: Don’t waste your time reading arguments all over the internet. Just pick the one that resonates with you and get going. Most of the people who berate others for not paying off debt in the “right” order or way have never even been in debt themselves — let alone gotten OUT. Don’t listen to people who purport to know what’s best for you when they’ve never been in a remotely similar situation. You know your life best.
It might be painful to learn the truth but you have to bite the bullet. Then you’ll see that it’s not hard to end this bad habit. In fact, you can get the credit card companies to help you. Just look at the back of your credit cards for their number, call them, and ask them for the amount of debt you owe, the APR, and the monthly minimum payment on the card.
If you struggle with learning how to develop a good budget so you can get your debts paid on time each month, you may consider using a credit counselor to get back on track. Consumer credit counseling agencies are nonprofits that will help you find a workable solution to financial problems. However, some nonprofit credit agencies charge excessive fees that are not applied to debt reduction.
You need to start off with a plan so you know just how much debt you have and your ability to pay them off. Also, it will provide you with a black and white scenario of your financial standing. The easiest way to do this is by creating a spreadsheet. If you don’t already have a spreadsheet on your computer you could use the free one that comes with Google Docs. You will want to create four columns – one for the name of your creditor, one for the amount owed, a third for your minimum payment (if applicable) and a fourth for the payment due date. Fill out these columns and you will have a good picture of your debt, which is the first important step in getting it under control.
Peer to peer lending low interest loans can be helpful in some cases. This is a fairly new business, but a number of peer to peer lending sites may offer help, such as Prosper, Lending Club, and Zopa. The money can often be used for paying any number of bills or handle various forms of arrears. These companies and their services can help you reduce, consolidate and pay off credit cards, automobile loans, medical bills, and other higher interest rate loans. While they do often have minimum credit scores needed (especially when consolidating debt) They can be an option. More on peer to peer loans.
Freedom Debt Relief Disclosure: Clients who make all their monthly program deposits pay approximately 50 percent of their enrolled balance before fees, or 65 percent to 85 percent including fees, over 24 to 48 months (some programs lengths can go higher). Not all clients are able to complete our program for various reasons, including their ability to save sufficient funds. Our estimates are based on prior results, which will vary depending on your specific circumstances. We do not guarantee that your debts will be resolved for a specific amount or percentage or within a specific period of time. We do not assume your debts, make monthly payments to creditors or provide tax, bankruptcy, accounting or legal advice or credit repair services. Our service is not available in all states and our fees may vary from state to state. Please contact a tax professional to discuss potential tax consequences of less than full balance debt resolution. Read and understand all program materials prior to enrollment. The use of debt settlement services will likely adversely affect your creditworthiness, may result in you being subject to collections or being sued by creditors or collectors and may increase the outstanding balances of your enrolled accounts due to the accrual of fees and interest. However, negotiated settlements we obtain on your behalf resolve the entire account, including all accrued fees and interest. C.P.D. Reg. No. T.S. 12-03825.
Find out if there's a penalty APR, too. That's when the card company jacks your interest rate up to 25% or even 30% if you pay a bill late or commit some other transgression. Many cards don't feature them, and that's preferable. Remember that any time you apply for a new credit card, even for a balance transfer, your credit score may be affected negatively as a result.
Yep, you read that right. And yes, we even mean stop contributing to your 401(k). Right now, you want all your income to go toward getting out of debt. Once you’re debt-free and have saved three to six months of expenses in an emergency fund, then you can resume your contributions. By then you’ll be on Baby Step 4 and can start putting 15% of your income toward retirement.
If debt management doesn’t seem quite right for your situation, there are several other debt relief options. I start with the least drastic option, credit counseling, and end with what most may agree is the most drastic: bankruptcy. Of course, all of these methods have their own pros and cons, and only you can decide whether they are better or worse for your situation.
If you cash in your IRA early, you will not only pay taxes on it (unless it is a ROTH), you also pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty. That means that money is not going to go very far. Before you use your retirement money to pay off consumer debt, I would suggest you at least talk with a reputable credit counseling agency to see if there’s a way to get out of debt without using this money that you will no doubt need when you do retire.
Next, the creditor will do their own investigation, according to National Debt Relief, which means they will check on your payment behavior with other creditors. This is why the company “strongly encourages” that you stop payment to all qualified creditors if you’ve decided on a debt settlement program. If the creditor decides that you are unable to pay off your debts, they will be more inclined to settle for a reduced payment plan and accept the new terms set forth by the debt relief company.
Happily, consumer protection laws now require credit card issuers to disclose the precise length of time that the "minimum payment plan" takes to work for each customer. When you get your next credit card bill, look for the box that says something like "If you make only the minimum payment on this balance, you will pay a total of 'X' dollars and take 'Y' years to pay off your balance."
It definitely sounds like you are in a tough spot. Can you make minimum payments until you get a place to rent and then try to resolve your debt? In addition, it would be a good idea for you to check out credit counseling as that may allow you to lower your payments, pay your debt in full, and avoid the kind of damage to your credit that settlement will do. (I am not opposed to settlement – it can be helpful in certain situations. But it definitely will affect your credit scores for some time.)
No. All eligible unsecured debt must be accounted for in a debt management plan, even those bills that you typically have no problem making payments on. The credit counseling agency in charge of your debt payment plan will want a full accounting of income and expenses in order to arrive at an accurate amount available to make the monthly DMP payments so be prepared to include all eligible debts.